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Cell DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2017.04.027

Tracing the Enterococci from Paleozoic Origins to the Hospital.

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsLebreton, F, Manson, AL, Saavedra, JT, Straub, TJ, Earl, AM, Gilmore, MS
Date Published2017 May 18
KeywordsAnimals, Biological Evolution, Communicable Diseases, Emerging, Cross Infection, Drug Resistance, Bacterial, Enterococcus, Genetic Speciation, Host-Pathogen Interactions, Larva, Moths, Phylogeny, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

We examined the evolutionary history of leading multidrug resistant hospital pathogens, the enterococci, to their origin hundreds of millions of years ago. Our goal was to understand why, among the vast diversity of gut flora, enterococci are so well adapted to the modern hospital environment. Molecular clock estimation, together with analysis of their environmental distribution, phenotypic diversity, and concordance with host fossil records, place the origins of the enterococci around the time of animal terrestrialization, 425-500 mya. Speciation appears to parallel the diversification of hosts, including the rapid emergence of new enterococcal species following the End Permian Extinction. Major drivers of speciation include changing carbohydrate availability in the host gut. Life on land would have selected for the precise traits that now allow pathogenic enterococci to survive desiccation, starvation, and disinfection in the modern hospital, foreordaining their emergence as leading hospital pathogens.


Alternate JournalCell
PubMed ID28502769
PubMed Central IDPMC5499534
Grant ListHHSN272200900018C / AI / NIAID NIH HHS / United States
P01 AI083214 / AI / NIAID NIH HHS / United States
R01 AI072360 / AI / NIAID NIH HHS / United States
U19 AI110818 / AI / NIAID NIH HHS / United States